Jackie McMahan is a member of the Quaker faith community.

 

Hooray for Valentine’s Day — a day set aside for love.

Having spent a lifetime devoted to those ages 10 and younger, I always marvel at their joy in exchanging cards on this holiday.

Five year olds who can’t read wait impatiently for someone to decipher messages of love and humor from classmates. School is often their first encounter with those outside the family circle. Teachers foster a safe and loving environment in which children can risk the struggles, failures and successes necessary for learning.

Time passes. Life happens. Awareness grows. Messages of love, humor, and good will can become harder to exchange as adults. In a complex and confusing world, we may find comfort in restricting our loving relationships to those in “our classroom.” Life, however, forces us to participate in larger spheres — job, town, state, country, world. Our classroom boundaries and corresponding memberships shift and change. Conflicts, internal and external, inevitably arise. Civil discourse may fail.

Social media, meant to connect friends and family, can instead be divisive as we post slogans meant to cheer on “our team” and vanquish our opposition. Slinging one shot slogans does nothing to solve the gigantic problems of our times. We become increasingly polarized. Hearts harden.

It is hard to hear the voice of God in the noise of this age. I talk to God. I try to listen. Are the actions in which I engage right with God? As a lifelong member of the Presbyterian church, the teachings of Jesus guide my beliefs and actions. While I am not abandoning friends and family of that congregation, I feel compelled to seek the quiet voice of the Quaker community.

I treasure the experience of joining together in contemplative silence and listening for the still, quiet voice inside. I want to learn more about decisions made through unity. This process does not abdicate one voice to a stronger voice, or piece together compromises of no lasting value. Rather, it is decision making which honors the light of God in even the smallest voice. It respects right relationships and the transformative power of love. I am a novice.

I thank the Quaker community for allowing me to worship with them. I thank my church family for allowing me to grow in another “classroom.”

Today my message of love is a promise to all past, present, and future 5-year-olds. I promise to work with others to create a safe and loving world in which you can explore, learn, and grow to the best of your abilities. I will do what I can to build a world free of war and the threat of war. I will do my part to construct a world of equity and justice for all. I will help restore and preserve our earth for present and future generations of 5 year olds.

I await the transformative power of love. As William Penn, one of our country’s first Quakers said, “We must change ourselves before we can change the world.” I await the time when the messages I receive and send, every day, are those of peace, love, and compassion. May we send our messages with the enthusiastic joy of kinder folk on Valentine’s Day.